Tony Blair’s 5 Steps to counter ‘insidious deligitimization of Israel’

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    24th August 2010

    Update: I have added Tony Blair‘s entire speech (below here) as at his website. Read it, please. Especially you, my ol’ mate Peter.  It is persuasively and forcefully argued.  Not aggressively so.

    Tony Blair Speaks on the De-legitimization of Israel

    jewishjournal | 24 August 2010

    Former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair, now Envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, was the keynote speaker of the August 24 symposium entitled “The De-legitimization of Israel: Threats, Challenges and Responses” organized by The Lauder School of Government, Diplomacy and Strategy at IDC Herziliya in cooperation with the Office of the Leader of the Opposition. Catch the first few minutes with some rough footage taken by Jewish Journal’s Orit Arfa. Read about his remarks here: http://www.jewishjournal.com/bloggish…

    Above picture from Kadima leader Tzipi Lipni’s TwitPic site here

    Blair’s Five Steps programme reported here at Jewish Journal in greater detail.

    Excerpt:

    ‘He proposed five steps to combating the de-legitimization Israel.

    First: “The aim is not to make people agree with Israel’s point of view but to insist that they listen to it and persuade them at least to a point of understanding.”

    Second:  “Israel has to be staunch and unremitting actor for peace.“ The restart of negotiations next month is a positive step and “shows there is a simple and sincere yearning on part of people of Israel to live an enduring and honorable peace with their neighbors.”

    He acknowledged cynicism about the peace process, but believes “if Israel can receive real and effective guarantees about its security, it’s willing and ready to conclude negotiations for a Palestinian state.”

    Third: Negotiations must include discussions of final stages. “Proposals on this issue will be a litmus test to seriousness.”

    Fourth: While taking into account legitimate security concerns, Israel must do what it can to improve quickly the daily life of the Palestinians.

    “No top down negotiations will work without it.”

    Fifth: “It is our collective duty, yours and mine to argue vigorously against the de-legitimization of Israel. It is also our collective duty to arm ourselves with an argument and narrative we can defend and with which we can answer the case made against Israel with pride and confidence.”’

    _______________

    At Tony Blair Office website is this fuller version of the above

    It won’t make him many friends in certain quarters, namely those who already KNOW that Israel is an illegitimate entity.  But their argument leads nowhere. Israel is NOT about to disappear. Nor is Balir about to turn on the west’s long-term ally in the Middle East.

    The noises off from the deniers is all the more reason he is right to say what he is now saying, accusations of bias or not. And it is all the more reason the balanced among us should use his speech:

    _____

    TONY BLAIR

    There are two forms of de-legitimisation. One is traditional, obvious and from the quarters it emanates, expected. It is easier to deal with. This is attack from those who openly question Israel’s right to exist. It is easier to deal with, because it is so clear. When the President of Iran says he wants Israel wiped off the face of the map, we all know where we are. This is not to minimise the threat of course. It remains and is profound. It is just to say that were this the only form of de-legitimisation, it wouldn’t warrant a conference of analysis; simply a course of action.

    The other form is more insidious, harder to spot, harder to anticipate and harder to deal with, because many of those engaging in it, will fiercely deny they are doing so. It is this form that is in danger of growing, and whose impact is potentially highly threatening, in part because it isn’t obvious.

    I would define in it this way: it is a conscious or often unconscious resistance, sometimes bordering on refusal, to accept Israel has a legitimate point of view.  Note that I say refusal to accept Israel has a legitimate point of view. I’m not saying refusal to agree with it. People are perfectly entitled to agree or not; but rather an unwillingness to listen to the other side, to acknowledge that Israel has a point, to embrace the notion that this is a complex matter that requires understanding of the other way of looking at it.

    The challenge is that this often does not come from ill-intentioned people; but well-intentioned. They would dispute vigorously such a characterisation of their mindset. They would point to the injustice of Palestinian suffering, acts of the Israeli Government or army which are unjustifiable and they would say, rightly, that you cannot say that to criticise Israel is to de-legitimise it.  Such minds are often to be found in the west. They will say they advocate a two state solution and they will point to that as proof positive that they accept Israel’s existence fully.

    The problem is that though this is true in theory, in practice they wear Nelson’s eye patch when they lift the telescope of scrutiny to the Israeli case. In a very real sense, they don’t see it.

    So, for example, on Gaza they won’t accept that Israel might have a right to search vessels bringing cargo into Gaza, given that even this year over 100 rockets have been fired from that territory into Israel Leave aside the multiple investigations relating to the flotilla, upon which there will naturally be heated debate. I mean a refusal to accept that, however handled, no Israeli government could be indifferent to the possibility of weapons  and missiles being brought into Gaza.

    I often have a conversation about the West Bank which goes like this. Someone says:  Israel must lift the occupation. I reply: I agree but it has to be sure that when it does so, there will be security and a Palestinian force capable of preventing terrorism. They say: so you’re supporting occupation. I say: I’m not: I’m simply pointing out that if Hamas, with an unchanged position on Israel, were running the West Bank, Israel would have a perfectly legitimate right to be concerned about it’s security.

    A constant conversation I have with some, by no means all, of my European colleagues is to argue to them: don’t apply rules to the Government of Israel that you would never dream of applying to your own country. In any of our nations, if there were people firing rockets, committing acts of terrorism and living next door to us, our public opinion would go crazy.  And any political leader who took the line that we shouldn’t get too excited about it, wouldn’t last long as a political leader. This is a democracy. Israel lost 1000 citizens to terrorism in the intifada. That equates in UK population terms to 10,000. I remember the bomb attacks from Republican terrorism in the 1970’s. There weren’t many arguing for a policy of phlegmatic calm.

    So the issue of de-legitimisation is not simply about an overt denial of the State of Israel. It is the application of prejudice in not allowing that Israel has a point of view that should be listened to.

    One thing I state repeatedly in interviews about Gaza – despite disagreeing with the previous policy on it – is to say to western media outlets: just at least comprehend why Israel feels as it does. In 2005 it got out of Gaza i.e. ceased occupying it, took over 7000 settlers with it and in return got rockets and terror attacks. Now I know all the counter-arguments about the unilateral nature of the withdrawal, the 2005 Access and Movement agreement and the closure of the crossings. But the fact remains: there is another point of view and you can’t describe it as illegitimate.

    This is then hugely heightened by the way things are reported. Here the televisual images – whether in Lebanon, Gaza or indeed any field of conflict – in Afghanistan for example, are so shocking that they tend to overwhelm debate about how or why conflict began. Because Israel – like the US or the UK – has superior force and because in such situations the horrible tragedy is that the innocent die – these images arouse anger, sympathy and a disgust that at one level is completely understandable but at another obscures the difficult choices nations like ours face, when they come under attack.

    The combination of all of this is curious disjunction of perception. I spend large amounts of time in Israel, and outside of it in different parts of the world. To those outside, Israel is regularly perceived as arrogant, overbearing and aggressive. To Israelis, there is a sense that the world is isolating it unfairly and perversely refusing to see they too have a right to have their voice heard. Hence this conference.

    The issue is how to respond. First, there is a clear and vital principle that needs to be established: to criticise is not per se to de-legitimise. The fact is there are plenty of Israeli and Jewish voices that passionately disagree with Israeli policy. I am a friend of Israel and openly avow it.  I have plenty of criticisms. De-legitimisation is qualitatively different. It can seem the same sometimes. But it isn’t. The one is valid. The other is not. Friends of Israel should be the first to make the distinction.

    Having done that, however, we should highlight the fact that de-legitimisation is happening, and be vigilant and vigorous about identifying and countering the instances of it. This needn’t be done stridently. But it should be done insistently. The aim: not to make people agree necessarily with Israel’s point of view; but to insist they listen to it and persuade them at least to the position of understanding. Where there is incitement, expose it. Where there is a one-sided account, argue the other side. Always have a voice out there – and not just the politicians – but the voices of the people. And do it systematically and with unity.

    Second, Israel should always be a staunch and unremitting advocate and actor for peace. What I mean by this is not that it should simply be for peace; it should advocate it and act to achieve it. Tzipi Livni’s and Ehud Olmert’s negotiations under the previous Israeli Government and previous US administration, were an immensely important part of showing to the world that whatever else they might say, they had to accept that the Government of Israel was genuinely trying to bring about peace. The re-start of the direct negotiations to be launched next week is important in itself; important because it shows that PM Netanyahu on behalf of the new Government of Israel is an advocate for peace; important because, with a l year time frame being indicated, it shows that there is a sincere yearning on the part of the people of Israel to live in an enduring and honourable peace with their Palestinian neighbours. I know some are cynical. I know some say it’s all for show. I reject that view. I think if Israel can receive real and effective guarantees about its security, then it is willing and ready to include a negotiation for a viable, independent Palestinian state. This is a brave decision by the PM and the right one.

    Third, there will be no successful negotiation unless all the final status issues are on the table. I’m not going to try to negotiate solutions here and now. That is for later. We can think creatively and constructively. Indeed we must do so. But proposals on these issues will be a litmus test of seriousness.

    Which brings me to a fourth point. A crucial response to de-legitimisation is to deal with the legitimate criticism. What is it? Let me answer based on my experience. It is that we can and should do more and more quickly to improve the daily lives of Palestinians. Now there has been real progress here in the past year. We should deepen it. I am a convinced persuader for the bottom up approach – I continue to believe that no top-down negotiation will work without it. I also think we have visible empirical evidence to support it: the improvements in Jenin and the opening of the Jalameh crossing to Israeli Arabs; changes to A & M in response to the hugely improved capability of the PA on security; the very successful PIC in Bethlehem that yielded hundreds of millions of dollars of investment; the modus operandi with the new department under DPM Shalom that has resulted in significant gains; and I hope in time a new approach to tourism and to development for Palestinians in Area C.

    Such change does not only lead to improvements to Palestinian lives.  It also deals with what is the most potent fuel – especially in Arab media – of hatred against Israel. That is the idea that Palestinians suffer not injustice alone; but a form of humiliation. Dignity is a very important concept.  Consistent with security, Israel should be constantly looking for ways to compensate for the indignity which inevitably results from the security measures taken and should seek to avoid any unnecessary indignities.

    I was pleased and heartened when the Government changed policy on Gaza. The truth is you can justify restrictions in Gaza taken for reasons of security. But with a Gazan population, half of whom is under the age of 18 and 300,000 of whom are under the age of 4, security is the only arguable basis upon which to put such restrictions. Of course Gilad Shalit should be released immediately. His detention is a profound denial of human rights, as is the way he is being treated. But a policy based on threats to Israel’s security is the only one its friends can defend.

    This leads me to my final point. It is our collective duty – yours and mine – to argue vigorously against the de-legitimisation of Israel. It is also our collective duty to arm ourselves with an argument and a narrative we can defend and with which we can answer the case against Israel, with pride and confidence.

    Let me tell you why I am a passionate believer in Israel. This is a democracy. It’s Parliament is vibrant. Its politics is, well, not notably restrained, let’s say. Its press is free. Its people have rights and they are enforced. I had an argument with a friend about Israel. I said to them: ‘ok let’s assume you are charged with a crime you didn’t commit and the penalty is 20 years in prison.  And you’re a critic of the Government. Tell me: under which country’s legal system, in this region, would you prefer to be tried?’ He struggled for a bit and then said: ‘that’s not the point.’ ‘But it is’ I replied.

    Look around the world about what we admire about the Jewish people: their contribution to art, culture, literature, music, business and philanthropy. It’s a spirit that is identifiable, open and rather wonderful.  Whatever bigotry is, it is the opposite of it.  It is a free spirit. On holiday I read the new biography of Einstein.  Having in early life taken not much interest in the issue, he became an ardent supporter of Israel. But look at the character of the Israel he supported: like Einstein himself – a free thinker, a rebellious thinker even, but one supremely attuned to the future.

    That is the Israel people like me support. So guard it; keep it. I am a religious person myself. But the society I want to live in, is one that treats me no better as a result; makes my view one amongst many; and pursues science, technology and progress with vigour and without prejudice. The best answer to the de-legitimisation of Israel lies in the character of Israel itself and in the openness, fair-mindedness and creativity of ordinary Israelis. That character and those people built the State of Israel. They remain it’s guardians. They are why to de-legitimise Israel is not only an affront to Israelis but to all who share the values of a free human spirit.

    Thank you.

    __________

    Also, Barak meets Blair ahead of direct negotiations

    Defense Minister Ehud Barak said Israel and the Palestinians would have to make brave decisions as part of the direct negotiations slated to be launched next week.

    In a meeting with Quartet Middle East envoy Tony Blair, Barak expressed hope that “the other side will find the internal powers to move ahead with talks.” (Roni Sofer)

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    24 Responses to “Tony Blair’s 5 Steps to counter ‘insidious deligitimization of Israel’”

    1. “Engaging Israel”: Highlights from Yesterday’s Symposium « SHI Inside Out Says:

      […] full transcript of Tony Blair’s speech is available now online. The Jewish Journal features a brief video clip […]

    2. Stan Says:

      Thanks for giving this great speech more publicity, KTBFPM. It clearly shows what makes Blair such a great statesman and why all good men (and women, of course) should come to his aid when he comes under attack.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Yes, quite, Stan. If you have time today, perhaps you can google search this speech and see how much coverage our press has given it. Then let me know. Probably as much coverage as they gave him for being one of the few at the top negotiationg table in Washington on 1st September.

        I’m in the naming and shaming mood right now.

    3. little ole American Says:

      I especially like the question to his friend, on where you would want to be tried, in that region of the world, if you were a critic of the government, and accused of a crime. I have to remember that one.

    4. Peter Reynolds Says:

      “Cogent” was the word that came to mind as I studied it.

      As you say, it is “persuasively and forcefully argued”. It is beautifully constructed, drawing all the threads together towards a conclusion then beautifully lifting out of logic at the end into a poetic eulogy on the spirit of Israel. Magnificent writing.

      This last passage, the equivalent, I would suggest, of another’s “broad sunlit uplands”.

      I really do appreciate the quality of the argument and writing. It isn’t perfect. I winced occasionally but I also felt a passionate agreement on some points.

      Can you clarify exactly what “final status issues” means?

      Overall, if on the basis of this, Tony Blair calls himself a “friend of Israel”, then I call myself one too.

      I accept every reasonable aspiration of Israel for its own security. That does not change the desperate injustice of what is happening now and what has happened. The solution is going to have include a strategy for truth and reconciliation.

      I think there are war criminals, rights and wrongs, truth and lies on both sides. Israel’s use of force is disproportionate. That is why Israel must pull back first, stop the oppression and stop the settlements

      As far as your pal Tone is concerned?

      A masterful performance. Do you know who he works with on writing, etc? I am very impressed.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Well said, Peter. I think he writes all the important stuff himself. In Campbell’s book he said how he used to sweat blood over the important speeches, changing them right up to the last minute.

        But if you are this impressed, and they bring TB up on Sunday, perhaps you might even be tempted to say something about his doing a good job in the MidEast, though it goes largely unremarked in our press. Some of us think we should be proud that a British former PM is at the top table in Washington next Monday. But you don’t see the papers saying this.

        Anyway, it’s not up to me to prompt you on your telly thing.

        But it is a speech that more of us should read.

        As for “final status” he means the two-state settlement, not just a halfway house towards it, as I understand it.

      • Peter Reynolds Says:

        You could always try a big fat bribe?

    5. Stan Says:

      Glad to see that you have come round a bit on this issue, Mr Reynolds. But you are obviously still stuck on the de-legitimization propaganda of Israel’s enemies which Blair is trying so hard to combat. Until you can see through it I ‘m afraid that you cannot be accepted as a friend of Israel.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Stan,

        To be blunt I think Peter R has come a long way on this. He still talks about things in a way that you and I think are unjustified. In fact he probably has no idea that, for instance, people travel daily into Israel from Gaza for life-saving treatment that would not necessarily happen or even be expected the other way round. But it takes some time for the truth to filter through our biased press. As I have mentioned here, I could write a book on why many think as they do, depsite the obvious facts pointing the other way.

        I’m not sure if he wants to be a friend of Israel, btw. The zeitgeist is that one is a friend of the Palestinians OR a friend of Israel. Well, the anti-Israel zeitgeist, anyway. I don’t actually accept that, and Blair is trying to dispense with that mindset.

        Praise where it’s due. I think PR, has shown open-mindedness.

      • Peter Reynolds Says:

        Stan, Stan, Stan! It is not all black and white you know! T’would be a boring world indeed were we all to agree on everything!

        By the way, Stanley is a very precious name in my family. My great grandfather was Stanley, my grandfather was William Stanley, my father Malcolm Stanley. My youngest son is Evan Douglas Stanley. There are many other uncles and cousins with the name.

        Now that was a surprise wasn’t it?

        Stan, I can offer my friendship wherever I want. I don’t think it’s for you to determine who’s a friend of Israel and who isn’t. I am a friend of all just, honourable and kind people.

        I do not agree that the zeitgeist is that you have to choose one side or the other. In fact, I think that’s nonsense John-boy! I’d go so far as to say misinformation.

        I don’t seek praise – just truth, justice, freedom and the British way.

        The odd Big Mac, fine malt whisky, good claret, pungent weed and the odd big fat bribe also accepted with thanks!

        • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

          You see, Stan. Peter invariably makes me smile. Even when he wrongly thinks I’m feeling what was the word – touchy. No that wasn’t it.

          He can offer his friendhip where he likes. Of course he can. You and I have disagreed often on Islamism. You, dear soul, think that Muslims are being treated as the Nazis treated the Jews; I think Islamists are treating the rest of us as the Nazis treated the Jews.

          I still think you are a great guy.

          But Peter, if you don’t think the zeitgeist is Israel BAD/Palestinians GOOD, you need to read Melanie Phillips The World Turned Upside Down. Amazing book. I haven’t finsihed it yet. Must try to before The Journey turns up on my doorstep.

          In half an hour’s time the other half and I will celebrate TENS of years of marital whatsit. Fine malt accepted this end, if you can send it by e-mail. No bribes, though. Neither way, sorry.

    6. Peter Reynolds Says:

      My main concern at present though is what are we going to do about our broken society, about broken Britain and about James Brokenshire?

      This man is dangerous, a Milliband clone and a big government, authoritarian nincompoop. He is doing the Tory party and the country irrepairable damage with his idiocy. He must be stopped!

      http://peterreynolds.wordpress.com/2010/08/23/the-third-milliband-brother/

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Took a look at your blog post on this guy, P. You should have put in a link so that we could all see what he had said. Still, I’m not that interested. Even though I voted for one of the parties presently in power, I am peculiary, or maybe not, unimpressed and uninterested. Politics is now bo-ring.

        I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. I do not accept all this stuff about Labour taking control of our lives, nanny state, police state etc. I have never felt it, so no point falling for the “zeitgeist” just because the Mail shows us the occasional example.

      • keeptonyblairforpm Says:

        Another thing. Britain is NOT broken. Well, it wasn’t before this crowd got a hold of it. Jury’s still out as to whether they break it assunder.

      • Peter Reynolds Says:

        I agree with you, Britain isn’t broken but there are some nasty cracks. I do honestly believe that if Brokenshire gets his way, things are going to get much worse. The man is mad. Who the hell gave him his job?

    7. Peter Reynolds Says:

      So how many tens?

      Paper, silver, gold, diamond?

      Both of you, please accept my most sincere congratulations and admiration with perhaps a soupcon of sympathy.

      I bet she’s a billion times nicer than Pauline anyway.

      (She’d have to be to put up with him!)

    8. Stan Says:

      Mr Reynolds, I agree it’s not all black and white on this issue. In fact I have been engaged in a spat with right-wing American Zionists, making the case for compromise (now THAT may have surprised YOU).

      However the trick is to see the black in the extremism of both sides, while recognising that the moderates on both sides may have a point (but not when they glory in acts of extremism, as Abbas did recently at the funeral of that Munich terrorist-thanks for the link KTBFPM).

      PS Extremism can sometimes be justified though when it is in defence of moderation. Munich and similar atrocities by the Palestinians clearly do not fall into this category. The attack on Gaza and stopping the flotilla did, IMHO.

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